The roads we chose to drive for the trip to Porto were lined with small villages. By this I mean that one village would end, showing the appropriate sign that announced this, but only 10 metres further on a new sign would announce the name of the next village. There seemed to be no breathing space between settlements. Road signs have become increasingly confusing too. Signs announce the end of, say, a 70kph speed limit, but there was never any 70 speed sign to start with - this is a frequent, not isolated, occurrence. Or, a 50 sign will be followed 10 metres further on by a 70 sign followed 10 metres along by another 50. And so on. Russ just lets everyone pass him so we don't run the risk of getting booked for speeding!
We rejoined the coast roads to the campsite which is just south of Porto. The best that can be said is that it is largely undeveloped - in fact, it is pretty drab and dreary all along the coast. The beaches are long and not especially inspiring, and angry waves were still in evidence from the rain and storms of the last couple of weeks. No one was swimming or surfing.
A long bus ride into Porto took us over the Rio Douro to the top of the hill. From here it was downhill all the way to the river and we zig-zagged our way looking at grand buildings and small back lanes. The immediate impression of Porto is of a grimy, industrial city. The buildings are blackened and dirty, the houses and residential blocks are dilapidated and the streets are generally dirty. Thank goodness it was a bright, sunny, blue-sky day or it would have been thoroughly depressing and ugly.
The railway station forecourt is famous for its blue and white Azelejos so we poked a head in there. Done in 1930 by an artist, they were excellent and beautifully executed. We wandered past a tower next to a church but resisted the invitation to climb 225 steps to the top. Behind it was a market and we discovered it was a bird market. Birds of all kinds were in cages at stall after stall. A few rabbits, guinea pigs and kittens were also for sale as well as a black and white skunk. It was quite a surprise to find some Australian birds openly for sale - the kind that people try to smuggle out of the country because of the demand and good prices overseas. Crimson and Eastern Rosella were for sale at €45 each while Rainbow Lorikeets were going for €200 each. But the priciest were a pair of King Parrots at €500 each. Surely they weren't legally obtained?? But then we saw something quite shocking which upset me quite a bit. A small wallaby (maybe a pademelon) was in a small cage. It looked quite miserable as it would in the cold and in the cramped cage. There was no price on it. But who could possibly look after one of these here?? And how legal was it?? I may yet contact the Australian Embassy in Portugal to see if they are aware of the trades in our native species.
Downhill yet again brought us to the Ribeira, a waterfront area of restaurants, bars, stalls and cruise boats. The girl in the tourist office had told us about some of Porto's food specialities and recommended one in particular - Francesinhas. These are sort of like a Croque Monsieur on steroids. Instead of just ham and cheese, they have ham, salami, grilled steak, a devon-like sausage and 2 spicy sausages inside two toasted slices of bread, are then topped with Mozzarella, grilled and covered in a sauce which tasted like weak tomato soup with Tabasco but which was in fact made of a seafood sauce with Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brandy, beer and butter... It was very filling and tasted OK, but I don't think I'll want another one for quite a long time.
We finished the day with a leisurely ride on a 'barcos rabelos', a boat once used for bringing Port wine in barrels from the vineyards to the warehouses which line the river. We cruised from the other side of the river, not really Porto but Vila Nova de Gaia, up river a little and then down to the mouth under all five, very high bridges over the river. The bridges are high because the valley is quite steep on each side. The energetic can climb up a squillion steps to walk across the top deck of a 19th century steel bridge. We were content to walk the lower deck.